Personal knowledge and on-the-ground experience inform this behind-the-headlines chronicle of the Syrian conflict.




Anticipatory account of the demise of Bashar al-Assad, Syria's struggling dictator, and the quake potentials building in the regional political, religious and ethnic fault lines that run through his country.

Lesch (Middle East History/Trinity Univ.; The Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History, 2007, etc.) first met with Assad in 2004 and has come to know key figures in Syria's political leadership directly. Assad was not groomed for the position of president—his assassinated brother-in-law was the choice for the top spot—but hopes were high for reform when he took over in 2000. Lesch goes through the process by which Assad became the dictator of the Syrian military state, and Assad’s career provides the frame for the author's account as he discusses the way power is wielded in Syria, the religious and ethnic composition of the country's population, and how Assad and his country responded to the Arab Spring. The author provides a timeline and geographic discussion of the ongoing revolt since its beginning and an analysis of the many international interests that have a stake in the conflict. He shows that Assad, like his father, rules over an alliance of minorities. The revolt and its suppression have unleashed historical demons of the sort that came to the surface with the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Because of divisions between external and internal factions and fears of the consequences of domination by the Saudi-backed Salafists, Assad, Lesch argues, has succeeded so far in suppressing the uprising. However, in the meantime, Syria is being transformed into the center of an expanding region-wide religious and ethnic conflict.

Personal knowledge and on-the-ground experience inform this behind-the-headlines chronicle of the Syrian conflict.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-300-18651-2

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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